02/15/09 7:03 PM EST
Jenks brushes off book's claims
Closer acknowledges rough past, disputes author's work
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
A more accurate depiction would be that Jenks' name made its way into the headlines more than a few times over the past three months for reasons of which he had no control.
Jenks quickly put that story to rest by once again explaining how he has learned to be more of a pitcher than simply a hard thrower during an exclusive conversation with MLB.com in December, adding how he has dropped his velocity purposely for better location and control. But this latest unwanted attention-grabber for Jenks falls under more of the sensationalistic heading.
Matt McCarthy, a Harvard Medical student, had excerpts from his book "Odd Man Out" printed in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated. The book focuses on McCarthy's days as an Angels Minor League pitcher and also makes mention of his dealings with Jenks, who was part of the Angels system. The primary problem on Jenks' side of the equation with the book is that he doesn't even know McCarthy, as Jenks explained Sunday.
"I have never even seen the guy in my life," said Jenks, speaking to the media at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, after White Sox pitchers and catchers reported. "I couldn't point him out in a room. I didn't know who he was then. I don't know who he is now.
"It's just some sorry attempt to get his 15 minutes. He's just trying to jump on the bandwagon of the whole book era right now, and it's just a sad attempt. I got a chance to read most of it, even all the way through it, and without my name in there, you can tell this guy is making a lot of [stuff] up."
The stories related by McCarthy of Jenks, for the most part, wouldn't be considered flattering and provided a more detailed description of Jenks' reported troubles while working his way toward the Majors. The book excerpt talks about situations ranging from Jenks arriving 15 minutes late to a workout in Mesa, Ariz., to Jenks talking about a manager in Arkansas who said Jenks threatened to kill him.
"It was just a figure of speech," said Jenks, according to the SI book excerpt. "I really didn't mean it."
McCarthy went on to detail how Jenks explained the way to get out of workouts was to "tell 'em you have a bad back," when McCarthy asked Jenks about wanting to hit the weights. There also were mentions of Jenks suggesting that teammate Derrick Turnbow was using steroids and problems involving alcohol and the burly right-hander.
If this depiction bothered Jenks, and he would have every reason to be upset based solely on his statement that he didn't know McCarthy, the soon-to-be, 28-year-old didn't show it on Sunday. He calmly answered questions about the matter with poise.
Simply put, Jenks' life seemed to change when the Angels released him after the 2004 season. Jenks has become one of the most dependable closers in the game and a clubhouse leader after three full seasons with the White Sox and the second half of 2005, which arguably included the most famous save in White Sox history during the deciding Game 4 of the World Series.
Even after the occasional blown saves, Jenks can be found in front of his locker ready to respond to all interested media. Jenks is a devoted husband and father of three, who spoke with great pride on Sunday of his oldest son starting Little League against older kids.
"You know what? My friends and family that know me, they know the truth," said Jenks, referring to the stories printed in the book excerpt. "They know none of it is true.
"When I got the opportunity to come here, it was a wake-up call. And the situation of how I was released, I've grown up a lot since I've had issues in the Minor Leagues.
"I've become a better person, a better man, a better husband and father," said Jenks, who heard about this book from Casey Kotchman and his family, with Kotchman having been traded by the Angels and now playing for the Braves. "That's why it was kind of surprising at this time in my life, when everything is good, that something like this would happen."
All of these tales won't change Jenks' approach as he goes into 2009 on the heels of his $5.6 million, one-year deal, agreed upon on Jan. 19, avoiding arbitration. He has pitched with an admitted chip on his shoulder during his entire life, but as long as he as the support of his families, the ones both on and off the field, nothing else seems to matter to the affable big man.
"This isn't going to change how I go out there and what I do," Jenks said. "My friends inside the clubhouse who know me, stand behind me. That's the important thing."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.